Feature

In this March 2019 issue

The bug issue
Insights on insects that impact agriculture (Cover Story)
by Kerri Lotven

Conversion nearly complete for MFA’s MerchantAg software
Last company-owned stores go live, grain platform still under development
by Allison Jenkins

Trade, technology and trends
Governor’s Conference on Agriculture returns with MORE in store for attendees
by Allison Jenkins

Spring forage management
Make plans for timely fertilizer applications, weed-control programs
by Doug Fast

What is Shield Technology?
Learn what product is right for your herd
Downloadable CHART

GMO foes know less than they think
Study finds those with most extreme oppositional views have the least knowledge on the topic
by Eric Bohl

New Clean Water Rule gives farmers clear guidelines
by Allison Jenkins

Behind the beans
Missouri Crop Improvement Association has helped MFA test for the best since 1947
by Allison Jenkins

Make sure your N gets in
Stabilizers can guard your plant nutrients, protect your fertilizer investment
by Dr. Jason Weirich

Group newborn calves by age to lower disease risk
Ensuring quality ‘first meal’ of colostrum also helps maximize immunity
by Dr. Jim White

Country Corner
Food traditions connect families, communities
by Allison Jenkins, Editor of Today's Farmer Magazine

UpFront
‘Year Ahead Report’ suggests slowing economic growth, growing ag debt
Spring starts drought-free
Marshall to lead Missouri Farmers Care

Markets
Corn: Corn exports up dramatically over last year
Soybeans: Trade negotiations continue to influence price
Cattle: Beef consumption holding steady
Wheat: Global exports, crop condition will direct spring markets

Recipes
Tasty twists - Food Page

Marketplace
BUY, sell, trade (click for classifieds as printed)


Viewpoint
Structuring MFA for the future
by Ernie Verslues

Click on the issue below to view magazine flipbook.

 

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Behind the beans

Before they ever reach a farmer’s field, MorSoy varieties face an extreme obstacle course to weed out seed that can’t handle the pressure.

First, the varieties must perform well in replicated variety trials across MFA’s territory. Next, the seedstock needs to survive the rigors of production and processing. Even then, there’s no guarantee the beans will make the cut.

That’s because the final hurdle is the Missouri Crop Im­provement Association, where the seed has to pass a battery of tests before it is deemed worthy of MFA’s own MorSoy brand. At the MCIA laboratory in Columbia, Mo., each seed sample undergoes up to nine different evaluations, from germination and purity to herbicide tolerance and accelerated aging.

The result is an objective, scientific assessment of the seed’s quality, said Richard Arnett, MCIA’s executive di­rector, no matter the company, brand, technology or variety involved.

“We are the bridge between research-and-development and the producer,” he explained. “Back in the day, we were the only thing between the seed com­pany and the producer. Today, even though most of the larger companies have their own in-house quality-control program, it’s still important that someone provides unbiased quality assurance, especially with the value in some of these seed traits. For produc­ers to capture that value, they have to make sure to start with seed of known purity so when it gets to the end user, it is what it’s supposed to be.”

MFA Incorporated has used the Show-Me State’s non-profit crop improvement association for inspect­ing, testing, verifying and certifying seed since 1947. In fact, MFA is the oldest member of the MCIA, which was formed in 1904 as a student club at the University of Missouri. Early work focused on the improvement of corn, eventually branching out into other crops. Today, the MCIA provides inspection and testing services on more than 800 brands or varieties and more than 100 different species or crops.

While MFA’s Seed Divi­sion maintains its own strict quality-control procedures from start to finish, having third-party verification by the crop improvement association gives growers added assurance.

“It speaks to the brand and the confidence that our custom­ers have in the brand,” said Steve Fleming, MFA Incorporated Seed Division director. “Growers want to know they are buy­ing a high-quality product, and when they purchase a bag of MorSoy, they know they’re getting that quality. It’s been tested

so thoroughly by the time it gets to the farm, we know it will perform.”

With the MCIA’s independent testing, those claims of quality are backed by more than just MFA’s word. They’re backed by the expertise of registered seed technologists such as Trent Hall, a member of the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists, which works with the Association of Official Seed Analysts to develop the rules for testing seed in the U.S.

“We’ll give you an honest evaluation of your product,” said Hall, a 41-year employee of the MCIA. “Not that other people are dishonest about it, but with the current staff here, we have 135 years’ worth of experience in dealing with seeds grown in Missouri’s environment. We’ve seen it all.”

It takes a special kind of person to analyze seed, Hall said. The job is meticulous, repetitive and exacting.

“You have to be very patient, you have to be conscientious and you have to stay sharp,” he said. “It’s such a detailed process, and standardization is key. It’s important that everyone who tests the product is testing it and evaluating it the same way.”

The MCIA handles around 4,000 samples a year, Hall said. By far, soy­bean is the most widely tested species, but the lab also analyzes wheat, small grains, grasses and a wide range of miscellaneous seeds. Most recently, he said, cover crop seed has become a bigger part of that mix as the practice has grown more popular in Missouri.

When seed arrives at the lab from the production companies or farmers, key identifying information is recorded in the computer, and then the sample is divided into smaller portions for testing. The number of sub-samples depends on the number of tests to be performed.

“The testing has gotten more com­plicated as seed traits and value have changed,” Hall said. “When I started here, we did two basic tests: germina­tion and purity. Now, we’re up to nine or more tests per sample.”

For MFA’s MorSoy seed, those tests typically include:

Varietal purity test — Seed sam­ples are scrutinized by MCIA staff for the percentage of pure seed, inert seed, other crop seed and weed seed. They’re also checked for hilum color, which can differentiate off-types.

Normal germination test — Seeds are “planted” on a wet paper towel, rolled up and placed in the germinator for seven days at 77 degrees Fahrenheit to simu­late ideal planting conditions. Each test includes a total of 400 seeds, 50 seeds per towel. After seven days, the towels are unrolled, and ana­lysts count the number of seeds that germinated properly.

In Missouri, the minimum germination level for soy­beans is 80 percent. For MFA, that’s not good enough, Fleming said.

“Our benchmark is 90 percent germination on soy­beans; 95 percent on corn,” he said. “The lower that germ, the higher population you have to plant to get the stand you want to produce the yield that you want. It all goes back to what we want our brand to represent.”

Sand germination test — Seeds are planted in a tray of sand and allowed to germinate for seven days under those “ideal” conditions (77 degrees). MCIA staff then records the percentage of normal germination from that sample, which consists of 100 seeds (200 per flat).

“The rolled towel creates artificial conditions; the seed is constricted and kept in the dark,” Hall explained. “That can exaggerate any damage to the seed. The sand test can be a more accurate test when dealing with diseased samples.”

Treated-seed germination test — Seed is hand-treated in the lab with insecticides or fungicides and then put through the rolled-towel germination test. The treated seeds are then analyzed to see how the treatment affected germination.

Herbicide tolerance — Seeds with tolerance traits for glyphosate and sulfony­lurea (STS) are tested in-house at the MCIA lab; others, such as those with dicam­ba, glufonsinate or 2,4-D tolerance, are sent to other labs equipped to handle them. To test for tolerance, seeds are soaked in the relevant herbicide overnight, rolled in wet towels and then evaluated for germination the next day.

“Depending on the mode of action in the herbicide, any non-tolerant seeds will be stunted in different ways,” Hall said. “The threshold is determined by whoever owns the trait.”

Accelerated aging stress test — Seed is placed in a small, divided tray with 40 milliliters of water in the bottom, and then subjected to temperatures of 105.8 degrees for 72 hours in the lab oven. After the seed is removed from the oven, it undergoes a normal germination test.

“High heat and humidity are the two things that stress seed the most,” Arnett explained. “With the weather conditions we’ve got now, you never know what you’re going to get. People want to know how the seed will react under stress, not just under perfect conditions, which we rarely get.”

Depending on the number of tests performed and the lab’s workload, the entire process can take anywhere from two to four weeks. Arnett, who’s been with MCIA since 1983 when he was a student at Mizzou, says most farmers and even industry personnel have no idea how much testing goes behind those beans.

“Most of what we do here, people don’t ever think about,” Arnett said. “They just assume that when the truck pulls up to deliver their seed, they don’t have to worry about it. They trust that the seed is what it’s supposed to be; it’s pure, and it’s going to germinate. But so much goes into making sure growers have that assurance.”

For more information about the Missouri Crop Improvement Association, visit online at moseed.org. Learn more about MFA’s MorSoy and MorCorn brands at mfaseed.com.

More from this March Today's Farmer Magazine Issue HERE .

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The bug issue

Stepping onto his porch one day last June, Jay Fogle looked out over his favorite alfalfa field on his farm in Peculiar, Mo. Something wasn’t quite right.

“He sent me a picture,” said MFA Crop-Trak Consultant Erica Wagenknecht, who scouts Fogle’s fields. “There was this triangle-shaped, yellow burn toward the leaf tips.”

For Fogle, a fourth-generation dairyman, alfalfa equals milk production, and he need­ed answers. When Wagenknecht arrived at the farm, she swept the field with a net and found the source of the problem—potato leafhop­per—which causes a discoloration on the leaf tips known as hopperburn. It wasn’t an insect she had encountered before on this farm.

A native species, the potato leafhopper feeds on the un­derside of leaves in a wide variety of plants. As it feeds, it injects a toxin that, in alfalfa, reduces yield, lowers protein content and increases root rot and stand failure. In Missou­ri, potato leafhopper can produce two to three generations each summer.

“It overwinters in the south and migrates north with southern winds in the summer,” Wagenknecht said. “Because 70 percent of potato leafhoppers are female, and their eggs hatch in about a week, it can quickly become devastating for farmers.”

In addition to alfalfa, Fogle raises corn, soybeans and beef cattle, operates a bakery and milks 50 cows twice a day. He also experiments with other crops such as hay beans and sorghum.

“Being a dairy, there are challenges with treating an insect like this,” Fogle said. “We had to check the harvest interval and feeding restrictions. With alfalfa, there are only a few chemical options for treatment anyway. So we had to not only think about what we would spray and what would work but also how many days would we have to wait before we could harvest and feed it.”

Wagenknecht got to work and did some research, locating a product that would fit the requirements.

“I think researching residuals generally takes up most of Erica’s time,” Fogle said. “But bugs can be the difference between a good yield and a bad yield real quick, and it’s typically the least expensive thing to fix.”

Fogle has participated in MFA’s Crop-Trak for 10 years, and Wagenknecht has scouted roughly 200 acres of the farm for the past four years. The program employs independent consultants who work with farmers on cropping plans and scout fields once a week during the growing season. Fogle said he’s learned something from each agronomist who has scouted for him; in turn, Wagenknecht says she and her fellow consultants learn from scouting such a diverse operation.

“There’s a difference between driving past a field and walking through a field,” Fogle said. “By the time you can visually see a problem driving past it, you’re definitely in reactive mode. It is already well into an issue. That’s the difference in having someone walk the field. They can tell the changes in the field from this week to the next and know when they need to look deeper.”

Cultural, biological and chemical

Crop-Trak consultants encourage growers to use the integrated pest management model, which brings together a broad-based approach to control insects. Cultural practices such as crop rotation, soil health management and “trap” crops—planted to attract insect pests from another crop—help to reduce or eliminate harmful insect populations. Biological controls introduce insects’ natural enemies to reduce damage caused by a specific population. Chemical controls are sprayed to prevent, destroy or repel pests.

“Insects are like dealing with any other pest,” MFA Senior Staff Agronomist Jason Worthington said. “We put a lot of attention on our herbicide program ahead of season, and most growers understand with a weed like waterhemp that you have to attack it before it becomes a problem. If you let weeds get out of control, even if you clean them up, they’re going to rob yield from you. Insects are no different.”

There are some insects, like cutworms, that growers can’t react to fast enough, Worthington said, so preventative measures should be taken at the proper timing.

But not all insects in any given field are bad, he stressed. Lady beetles and their larvae control aphids and mites. Lacewings can quell aphids. Parasitic wasps can repress caterpillar populations and other insects. Even spiders and assassin bugs are predators that do their part. Eventually, Worthington said, he expects these biological controls to become more prevalent.

“In the future, we may be able to introduce beneficial microbes that, similarly to beneficial insects, could help control pest populations,” he said. “We are currently evaluating some of these products that are already on the market.”

From a stewardship standpoint, it’s important to understand what threats move so rapidly that pre­ventative control is warranted, Worthington added.

“And not only do they move rapidly, but how common are they? Are they something that we deal with most years? If they don’t fall into those categories, then do we have time to react?” he said. “Sometimes in terms of beneficials we can be doing more harm than good by spraying. So starting with a good plan for those frequent and quickly developing insect pests is paramount. Following up for those less frequent, but still potentially damag­ing, pests with thorough scouting is really the way to go.”

Monitoring and diligence

Year in and year out, MFA’s crop scouts and agronomists have an idea of what they need to watch for each season, Worthington said.

“Every year, we contend with cutworms in corn, Japanese beetles in soy and weevils in alfalfa,” Worthington said. “But the bigger question is what’s going to show up that we don’t expect? Are we going to have an army worm year or not? What are going to be our pod feeders? Are we going to see any invasives? I don’t know if it’s so much preparing for a specific insect. It’s more about making sure we’re diligent in our scouting efforts and looking for these things. It’s one of the big reasons we have Crop-Trak—to catch what we don’t expect.”

For more information on Crop-Trak, contact Jason Worthington at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 573-876-5299.

Invasives: the good, the bad, and the bugly

With global trade often comes invasive insect species. The Japanese beetle, for example, was first discovered in 1916 on the East Coast but is thought to have entered the U.S. as larvae via imported plants before inspections began in 1912. When dealing with eggs and larvae, it’s almost impossible to catch everything, but the issue with invasive species is their natural enemies usually don’t make the trip with them, said Dr. Kevin Rice, University of Missouri assistant professor of entomology and state Extension specialist.

“Typically with invasive species, they’re transported here unintentionally,” Rice said. “They hitchhike on our cargo. A couple of pregnant females reproduce, and they have explosive growth patterns because there’s nothing in this new environment to
control them.”

Rice said the lack of natural predators leads to a couple of problems—higher populations and greater economic damage certainly—but it also means entomologists in the area typically haven’t studied the insect’s biology or ecology to figure out if there are better ways to manage it. Therefore, chemical control becomes the default.

“Unfortunately when we get these invasive species, our growers are sort of forced into relying solely on chemical control,” Rice said. “And because we don’t have any other management modes, they typically go to calendar-based weekly sprays, causing an imbalance in our integrated pest management and potentially disrupting what they’ve been working toward for many decades.”

Once forced to rely on chemical control, Rice said, there are often secondary pest outbreaks due to repeatedly spraying for one insect. For example, growers also may wipe out the natural enemies for a native pest species such as aphids, which can then grow out of control. Persistent spraying also puts products at risk for the target pest developing resistance.

“It’s a difficult problem because we can’t just give up that economic loss,” Rice said. “But we should keep established economic thresholds in mind to determine when spraying is necessary.”

Here are some of the invasive species Rice has been studying that could impact growers in MFA’s territory:

Japanese Beetles

Before joining the MU staff in January 2018, Rice worked in Pennsylvania and outside of D.C. in field crops. But he said he’d never seen populations of Japanese beetles like he saw here in Missouri this past summer.

Though the beetle was introduced in the early 1900s, it moves slowly. It’s taken roughly 100 years to make it this far west. Missouri is right on the invasion front, Rice said.

“We had fewer beetles in the mid-Atlantic because several decades ago the USDA released these tiny wasps on the East Coast that parasitize Japanese beetle grubs,” he explained. “That has lowered the population in those areas, but we’re currently forced to deal with higher-than-normal populations until it makes its way here.”

The good news is the wasp, known as Tiphia vernalis or the more common “spring Tiphia” was redetected in 2018 after 10 years in Meramec State Park near Sullivan, Mo.

“It’s going to come behind the Japanese beetle, establish its own populations and lower the Japanese beetle population to a much less economically damaging level,” Rice said.

There are a lot of questions about chemical resistance and Japanese beetle, he continued, but currently the insect shows no resistance to standard controls.

“Pyrethroids and other classes are excellent at knocking these guys down,” Rice said. “You can spray on Monday and kill 100 percent of the adults in your field, but they move around so much that they will come in from your neighbor’s field and untreated natural habitats, making it a continual problem.”

Soil treatments aren’t recommended for Japanese beetles for similar reasons. Killing all the grubs in one field doesn’t prevent them from moving in from adjacent areas. It isn’t an economically viable solution, Rice said.

Soybeans are also resilient plants that can withstand some leaf damage, he added.

“In soybeans, we see a lot of defoliation, but a lot of times it looks worse than it really is,” Rice said. “When judging the amount of damage, growers and scouts should look at the entire plant. The upper leaves may have 20 percent damage, but if the whole plant doesn’t have 20 percent damage, you don’t need to spray. Those lower leaves are still getting enough photosynthesis to protect your yield.”

In corn, damage from Japanese beetles is largely cosmetic, he said. At silking, they can reduce pollination, but if the silks aren’t present, the issue isn’t that bad.

Soybean Gall Midge

A more recent discovery, the soybean gall midge, began making headlines in the Midwest in 2011. Initially isolated to a few fields, the pest has been reported in several states including Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota. Because of its proximity to state lines, Rice said he’s willing to bet it’s also in Missouri but hasn’t been detected yet.

“The soybean gall midge is related to the Hessian fly,” Rice said. “It produces this orange maggot under the stem of soybeans and attacks healthy plants. It actually looks like some of the bacterial rot you might see, but then the stem falls over. If growers are seeing this, I would encourage them to cut open the stem to see if they have the larvae.”

Unchecked, a 100 percent infestation results in significant yield loss. The damage usually starts to appear on the edge of fields and may correspond with disease.

“We don’t know a whole lot about this insect,” Rice said. “We’re getting a lot of this information from our colleagues in Nebraska. It’s possible there is a correlation with disease, but we don’t know if the insect is increasing disease because it’s making a mechanical wound or if the disease comes first.”

Though the soybean gall midge hasn’t been found in Missouri, Rice is advising growers, scouts and Extension agents to be on the lookout in the upcoming growing season.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)

BMSB made its way to the U.S. in the early 2000s. Native to Asia, the BMSB is an extreme generalist and feeds on more than 200 species of host plants, including vegetables, fruits, field crops, ornamentals, woody shrubs and hardwood trees. The insect also overwinters in houses, which is often where it is first reported.

The way to tell BMSB from native species is to look for light and dark banding on the antenna. The instars, which look like little ticks, also sport similar coloring, making it distinguishable in all stages of the life cycle.

“BMSB has a high dispersal capacity,” Rice said. “On average females will fly about five kilometers a day, but when we put them on flight mills and forced them to fly, they can fly up to 80 kilometers a day.”

BMSB likes to switch up its diet, consuming a balance of protein and carbohydrates as it flies between tasty choices like soybeans and orchards. By balancing their diet, females produce more eggs, ensuring the continuous survival of the species. Due to its varying appetite, BMSB is mostly found on the edges of fields near woody areas as the pest moves back and forth between meal sources.

“We studied BMSB a lot in the mid-Atlantic because it has done a ton of damage there,” Rice said. “For apple growers in 2010, it caused $37 million worth of damage. The good news is, if you do it right, one well-timed border spray will wipe out most of this species.”

BMSB reduces quality and yield in both corn and soybeans. Intense early-season feeding can damage seeds and seedlings. Growers may notice what is called “stay green syndrome,” in which the plant fails to continue developing. This causes problems at harvest if the interior of the field is dried down but the edges aren’t.

By running a series of weather and temperature models using data from the last 30 years, Rice determined that BMSB produces two generations in Missouri. Further evaluation will investigate how temperature increases change the population boundaries in Missouri and neighboring states.

Because BMSB was doing so much damage in the mid-Atlantic, in 2005 the USDA sent agents to Asia to find a natural predator to the stink bug variant. There, they located the Samarai wasp, which is native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

“What’s interesting about this story is that, of course, you can’t just go get something and throw it into the environment,” Rice said. “You have to test to make sure it’s not going to attack bees or butterfly species. During the course of testing, in 2014, the researchers found a Samarai wasp outside, very close to their experimental station in Maryland.”

The news hit the media, and the fear was the researchers had let the quarantined wasp escape.

“Through independent DNA tests, they determined the wasp they had in their colony was very different from the wasp they found outside,” Rice said. “It had actually made the trip on its own.”

Since that time, the Samarai wasp has been found in 10 other states, indicating it’s been in the U.S. for some time.

Rice said that’s a positive for those facing BMSB damage. Female wasps lay their eggs in the stink bug eggs, and the larvae develop in the eggs and emerge.

“In Asia, these wasps control 90 percent of BMSB,” Rice said. “We hope it establishes and spreads one day, making its way to Missouri.”

And though it looks similar to BMSB, Rice reminds scouts and growers that the spined soldier bug is a “good guy” and preys on a variety of other insects.

Kudzu Bug

Also native to Asia, the kudzu bug was first detected in Georgia in 2009. It’s currently in nine states, including parts of the Bootheel.

“In the South, it feeds on kudzu,” Rice said. “The bad news is it also feeds on soybeans, shrubs and trees. It initially caused 50 percent soybean yield loss in Georgia. It’s not that bad now, though, because we’ve learned some things about its biology and how to control it, For example, if you control weeds along the edges of fields, that helps prevent it from actually moving into the field.”

Like BMSB, the kudzu bug is also found on field borders, produces several generations per year and overwinters in homes. In addition, kudzu bugs release a chemical that causes skin rashes.

Sugarcane Aphid

The sugarcane aphid was first discovered in the 1970s in Florida, but in 2013 large populations of the pest made a switch from sugarcane to sorghum. It is now in 15 states, including Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma.

“If you have sorghum, a sugarcane aphid infestation can result in 100 percent yield loss,” Rice said. “The female aphid produces live young. It’s one of the only insects to do this. One interesting fact is that when the female has her baby, that baby already has another baby inside of it. Because of this, within a few days you can have thousands upon thousands of aphids, especially if there isn’t anything eating them.”

There are several insecticides that work well on the aphid, but frequent scouting and early detection are important. If the population gets to a certain threshold, insecticides can’t control it.

“Because they reproduce asexually and hide underneath leaves, you won’t get full coverage with chemicals at a certain point,” Rice said. “Field scouting and knocking them down early is really the only option we have right now.”

Spotted Lantern Fly

Detected in 2014 in Pennsylvania, the spotted lantern fly feeds primarily on grapes and sometimes hardwood trees. When they feed, they produce honeydew, which can lead to secondary problems of sooty molds.

“The wine industry there has taken a massive hit,” Rice said. “There has been 100-percent yield loss in vineyards, and it’s actually killing the vine. It’s not only that one year of yield loss. Now you have to replant, which is devastating for vineyards.”

The spotted lantern fly lays its eggs on any flat surface, including stone, wood and metal, which means it has the potential to move throughout the country easily on transports such as semi-trailers, vehicles and railroad cars.

“From my point of view, the spotted lantern fly could show up anywhere in the United States on any given day if it’s laying eggs on metal,” Rice said. “Asian literature says it feeds primarily on grapes, but last summer we found it feeding on soybeans in Pennsylvania in addition to corn and alfalfa.”

The spotted lantern fly was originally thought to contain cathartin, a bitter acid that is harmful to mammals if ingested, especially foraging animals such as cattle and horses.

“The Penn State chemical institute did a lot of tests and found out it does not contain cathartin,” Rice said. “That was really good news, but vineyard owners are still saying that their dogs are getting really sick when they’re eating these. We’re testing further to see if it’s a similar chemical that makes the mammals sick.”

The spotted lantern fly is a slow flyer and doesn’t look like anything native to the United States. If growers and scouts see one in their fields, Rice advises that they put it in alcohol and send him a picture for a definitive ID.

“It was reported in five states last summer, and I’m going to predict this is a freight train that’s coming across the whole United States,” Rice said. “We’re going to have to react quickly when we find it.”

If you suspect soybean gall midge or spotted lantern fly in Missouri, contact Dr. Kevin Rice at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Trade, technology and trends

After a year's hiatus, the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture returned for its 48th edition Jan. 10-11 at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.

More than 600 farmers, ranchers and agriculture leaders attended the event, hosted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Gov. Mike Parson. The third-generation farmer, who was named governor last June, gave a rousing welcome during the conference’s Missouri Agriculture Awards Luncheon.

“I’m a rookie here, but this truly feels like home with so many friends in this room,” Parson said. “The Show-Me State continues to be a leader in ag production. It’s an $88.4 billion industry that supports 400,000 jobs in this state. But it’s not the numbers that impress me. It’s the values we share in Missouri agriculture. It’s a great privilege to serve this indus­try of hardworking families.”

Parson pointed out it’s the first time he can remember that Missouri’s governor, director of agriculture and lieutenant governor are all “true farmers.” The governor runs a cattle operation in Polk County, Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn is a fifth-generation farmer who raises swine in Shelby County, and Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe produces beef cattle on his family farm in Phelps County.

The agricultural background of these leaders is positive for Missouri farmers, said Parson, who also praised the efforts of his cabinet in col­laborating to provide much-needed relief for farmers during this past summer’s drought.

“We were able to work together as a group to get some meaningful things done in a short period of time,” Parson said. “That’s what govern­ment should be doing—helping people when they need it.”

Acknowledging that there will always be “tough times,” Parson said preparing Missouri agriculture and rural communities for the future is one of his top priorities as governor. He mentioned expanding access to broadband internet as one example of accelerating education opportuni­ties for today’s youth.

“We can’t operate like we did 10 years ago if we are going to maintain agriculture as our state’s No. 1 industry,” he said. “To be competitive in today’s market, the next generation is going to have to know technology, know what hard work is all about, and know where the job markets and trends are going across the world. It’s up to us to work together to make sure our kids and grandkids have the same opportunities we have.”

Prior to lunch, Missourian, agriculture journalist and national television host Tyne Morgan recorded a segment of the U.S. Farm Report from the conference. In her “Commodity Out­look” session, Morgan featured agriculture economists Dr. John Anderson, chairman of the business, applied and technical sciences at the College of the Ozarks; Dr. Scott Brown, director of strategic partnerships at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; and Dr. Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. Portions of their panel interview were broadcast the following weekend during the U.S. Farm Report’s regular schedule on RFD-TV.

Growing agriculture’s impact

The conference organized sessions around the MDA’s ongoing “MORE” initiative. During the “feedMORE” segment, Dean Chris Daubert of MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources previewed a soon-to-be-released study that shows Missouri has the capability to grow the impact of its food and agriculture industry by more than $25 billion in the next eight years. The study was commissioned by the university. A coali­tion of agriculture industry partners, including MFA Incorpo­rated, contributed to the initiative.

According to the study, the best way to boost agriculture from its current level is to focus on taking raw products Missouri already produces and adding value to them through advanced man­ufacturing or processing efforts.

The feasibility study made three main recommendations. First, Missouri should create a network of universities, colleges and Extension offices that can coordinate resources and identify new business opportunities. Second, the study recommends focusing on creat­ing products that can address issues re­lated to human and agricultural health challenges through precision medicine. Finally, the study suggests an initiative to grow value-added food processing and manufacturing to benefit both crops and livestock.

By implementing the suggestions, the impact to Missouri’s economy by 2027 has the potential to be dramatic. Business growth from these efforts could create and support nearly 70,000 new jobs and generate nearly $4.4 billion in new personal income. Im­portant to all Missourians, the growth would raise annual state and local tax revenue by more than $1 billion.

Dean Daubert told the conference audience that the full study would be completed and available for public viewing by the end of January. The final version will be available on the Missouri Agricultural Foundation’s website once the report is released.

“My hope is that one year from now, at the 2020 Governor’s Conference, we can share what we’ve learned through a year of investigation and how we can realize those economic impact figures,” Daubert said. “We’re excited to be part of this big ini­tiative. It’s a great opportunity for Missouri ag, and the focus is to help all of Missouri farmers and ranchers become even more profitable.”

Connecting rural communities

Another food-focused session at the conference featured Vivian Howard, chef, author, restaurant owner and TV personality, who served as keynote speaker on Thursday, Jan. 10. She shared her story of returning to her small-town North Carolina roots to open a farm-to-fork restaurant and discussed her expe­riences as star of the PBS show, “A Chef’s Life,” which just ended a five-season run in October.

Eric Maly, with the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, explained the organization’s mission to improve the status of food-insecure families in its 32-county service area. The organization works with 140 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other agencies to identify need and distribute food. Efforts include mobile food pantries to serve areas that do not have a permanent site and “Buddy Packs” at elementary schools to provide students with ready-to-eat food to take home over the weekends. A summer feeding program provides weekday lunches in areas with high poverty rates.

Other governor’s conference sessions focused on technol­ogy, from connecting rural communities with high-speed internet to advances in crop research and development. Todd Sears, president and CEO of IntelliFarms, shared the story of economic development in his small town of Archie, Mo. He connected with the right resources to bring high-speed internet to the rural Missouri town, helping to ignite businesses in his community.

The buzz about “blockchain” was addressed by Mark Pryor, chairman and CEO of The Seam, a leading provider of trading and technology solutions. Pryor said demands for increased traceability and transparency throughout the agri­culture supply chain are at an all-time high, and blockchain technology is poised to provide a common digital fabric with open, neutral, borderless possibilities.

Dr. Jeremy Williams, senior vice president for Bayer Crop Science, discussed how advances in molecular breeding, biotechnology and gene editing, combined with data sci­ence and artificial intelligence, will empower growers.

“Agriculture sits at the intersection of enormous global challenges that include a growing population, limited nat­ural resources and a changing climate,” said Williams, who spoke at the conference on Friday. “Farmers need innovative solutions—tailored to the specific needs of their farm, their crops and their soil—so they can grow food successfully, safely and sustainably.”

Missouri Ag Director Chinn, who gave her keynote ad­dress on Friday morning, said the conference was a positive way to kick off 2019.

“Agriculture has a lot to be thankful for as we look in the rearview mirror at 2018, from a dry summer to a wet fall and a final farm bill to a new look at international trade deals,” she said. “Hosting our friends in Missouri agriculture for this forward-thinking conference is truly an honor. We hope it will inspire many farmers, ranchers, agribusiness leaders and aspiring agriculturists to return home energized to make a positive difference in their communities.”

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